Saturday, May 29, 2010

Change Needs to Happen: Part 2

Well, last blog certainly drew a crowd; let's see what kind of reviews I get for this one.

For this blog I have several things I would like to discuss, so sit back and please try and keep awake. First on the list is the creation of teams. This will topic will tie into the rest as the post continues. By teams I mean let's take the owners of horse racing and let's make their barns into "Teams." Every sport almost, has some sort of team, track, football, baseball, basketball; even bigger eventing shows equestrian riding has team events as well as individual. Owners would obviously take the roll as team owner, trainers as coaches, and horses as the players. Simple.

The reason I say we should try this style of format is because one of the main reason fans come to games or events is to watch their favorite team, while also watching any great players that play for them. The great players are still remembered for the records the broke and the feats they accomplished, but once they retire, people still have their favorite team to watch instead of trying to search for another player, like we continuously do in horse racing. This would help keep the long term attention of fans today and possibly even gain new ones for the sport.

Because of the new formation of teams, there should be a point system, that determines any championship or who enters any championship event. For end of the year championships the team/stable with the most points is that year's champion owner. The trainer who gains the most points is the champion trainer. Each stable can have a MVP horse, the horse that gained the most points for their stable and then the ultimate MVP, Horse of the Year, is the horse who gained the most points throughout the year. This also would apply to divisional championships too, like champion sprinter, champion older male and three year old. This way, any bias could be removed from the championships.

In terms of the points applying to entering the championship events, let use the Triple Crown and Breeders Cup for examples. In my last blog I mentioned the Derby field being reduced to 14 horses. The 14 horse eligible to enter the Derby would be chosen by the number of points the accumulated through the prep races that the horse had performed in as a 3 year old. Of course the amount of point a horse would amass would be determined by the grade of the race and what place the horse came in.

For the Breeders Cup, the point system may differ per race. The Classic, being open to all horse, could be determine by the top seven older horses, male or female, and the top seven 3 year olds. This format could go for any other race that is open to all horses. For juveniles you use the same criteria we used with the Derby, by selecting the top 14 horses in terms of points. For races like the Ladies Classic, the format would be the same as the Classic, except you would only choose the top seven older fillies and the top seven 3 year old fillies.

The points could also be used to help horses in drawing post positions for big events, such as the Triple Crown or the Kentucky Derby. The horse with the highest amount of points would have first dibs on whatever post position they choose. The horse second highest in points would choose second, and down the list they would go.

The point system and teams would go a long way in terms of drawing fans to the sport. It would make it much easier for general fans to understand the selection process and determine what horses will be in what event. It will make it much easier for them to stick with the sport when they have a favorite team, instead of being left stranded with no favorite, once the horse they supported is retired. These changes to racing may seem rather unconventional now, but they could be what make the sport competitive with the likes of baseball and football, and possibly even surpass them. Sometimes an unconventional touch is all something needs to attract some attention.


  1. You sure take free license with us owners money.
    First of all we ARE team owners. The horses are our players and the trainer is our coach. We're all private contractors those who want to be on teams? Are in racing partnerships.
    The horse with the highest points getting the best draw? Come on, to stack the draw like that? Some people would use up their horses for an advantage like that. Most importantly you start trying to control who on the 'team' gets into certain races? You are just ASKING for all kinds of issues.
    What you're suggesting about points and all that rot is unworkable for racing. Your scenario would confuse the hell out of a 'fan'. You can't make everything into every other sport.

    The biggest difference between this and other 'sports'? The longevity of the 'players'. No matter how well we take care of them they have a maximum of 4-5 years on average as compared to FB,MLB and NBA players who have 10-20 years. Horses are too unpredictable, too fragile and have bad days which can have much more impact and setbacks than a player who has a bad game.
    How do you keep fans interested in College sports? When the players only stay around for 1-4 years max? It's the constants that make you have a favorite team. The city, the Coach, the University.
    Pick a favorite trainer, pick a favorite jockey most of them will stick around for years. Or even a favorite race track.
    HOWEVER one of the BIGGEST falacies is that you think ALL owners will be here for years. With the economy the way it is, the issues with the banks? That is one thing that absolutely will not happen. Old owners die, the big farms are being sold off, the newer owners in the game are getting in way too deep and are filing bankruptcy left and right or are leaving the game entirely. When a team owner of a Football team dies, either the family takes it over or the franchise is purchased, horse racing IS NOT a franchise. It has too many variables and not enough constants particularly in and for owners.
    I know you're a fan but fans alone cannot and will not keep this game going. The only fans that keep the game alive are the gamblers. THAT is why we want to draw new fans, hoping they will contribute to the game by gambling at some point. If they're only interested because they need a consistent rooting interest? They'll be sorely disappointed.
    As you've been told over and over it's the race tracks that profit from ticket sales, sale of souvenirs. Unlike other 'sports' where the teams earn a large percentage of the money from those sales. Try to get track ownership to give that up. The only way we can get some of the share of the pot for TV or for attendance is to have a powerful board or head of racing who can get things done. One who can fight for the industry with the politicos and get us a share of the pot other than what we put up ourselves. Someone like a NFL or MLB commissioner. THEN the 'casual' fan will also win because the product will be better and they will actually be able to contribute to the industry without necessarily gambling.

    The other BIGGEST difference? This game is driven almost soley by gambling, most people dont see it as a 'sport' they see it as a business or an industry or a 'game' at best.
    The owners that put up the funds and pay for everything have two ways of making enough money to support their participation other than their funds from their real jobs. That is the purses which are driven by handle and their own fees, or wagering on their horses and their fellow owners.

    As for eventing? How many fans do they have?
    I think what really bothers me about your suggestions is that I know you have NO idea how to run a business, how expensive racing is or all of the intricacies of being involved in horse racing. Get that practical experience before you EVER try to tell a businessman how to best run their business.

  2. I'm of the opinion that when a fan is constantly trying to change a sport or morph it into being like every other sport out there? Well it's time for that fan to enjoy those other sports and move on. Because horse racing isn't what you want it to be apparently.

    The only point I agree with is determining the champions. Take that out of the hands of the writers and secretaries. With the NTRA on the brink of extinction and a lot of writers either disappearing or not renewing their membership in the NTWA the Eclipse awards very well may disappear too so it will probably be a moot point.
    You can't make a barn into a team. Each owner operates independently of the others and when we have common trainers an owner whose horse isn't the MVP will feel like they aren't getting the best of the trainer and his time.
    If you say that the horses are MVP's and down, will the trainers adjust their day fee accordingly? These guys have enough headaches without trying to fit into a fans little box of how this sport should be run, which horses run where and when and so on.
    You forget, unless we're partners, we're all running for the same purses as the other owners in the trainers barn.

    Racing has parameters set as to who gets into what race. Condition books. Allowance races, maidens, non winners of _____x, point and dollar systems for the biggest races.

    You're trying to turn a sport whose whole concept is built on independence, into a team concept. I'm not buying and neither will any other owner.

  3. Stacy,

    Point number one, it's not that i'm unhappy with the sport, i'm trying to think of ways that we can change to better appeal to the general public. Racing does not have the fan base that other sports have, and because of that many many tracks are in big time trouble. If it had not been for the legalization of gambling in Pimlico or DE these two tracks would not even be here any more. This tells you we are not self sufficiant, and are dependent on the government.

    I want people to want to come out and watch racing like they do football, baseball, basketball, etc. That is not going to happen the way we are currently set up.

    Also, the team thing I think you might be confused on. Each owners is their own team, they are still individuals. The horses that are under that owners name are the team players. The best horse from that OWNERS barn/team, not the trainer's is that owners MVP. The horse that racks up the most points over the year is the Horse of the Year.


    With the way things have been going at different tracks, I'm sure most track owners might be open to anything. To share the revenue is actually a great idea. That way they are giving the owners a little extra and then they are more likely to stay in the game, then in turn, return to the race track.

    The problem with what you are sugesting right now, with picking a trainer or jockey is that the casual fan does not really know who the jockeies are or the trainers. We make such a big deal out of the horses, and we should, they are the athletes, that we leave out most of the human interest.

    My point on this blog was to create a system where a fan could identify with the human connections. In my above comment I said I am not trying to get owners to team up. What I was saying is that one owner has his/her own team, like football or any of the other sports. The teams are seperated. The horses under that specific owner are the owners players, and the trainer(s) are the coach. Jockies could also be considered players, since they too are the athletes, and deserve recognition for the amount of skill and passion it takes for that kind of job.

    You say fans alone can't keep this sport alive. With the right structure yes they can. Every sport has gambling, but not one of them relies on it like Racing does. Many rely on the FANS to keep coming out. That is why if tracks did what you suggested, with the revenu share it could really help out our industry. Gambling alone cannot help this industry survive, espcially with the economy the way it is. Pure independenc will not either.

    I hate to give a history lesson, but do you remember the articles of confederation and the pure chaos that caused? It was built on pure independence and failed utterly. That is what many aspects of racing remind me of, and it scares me. Somewhere along the line we all need to come together and work as a team. Where I really do not know, all I know is that what we are doing right now is not working.

  4. A coach in any other sport coaches one team for ONE owner or ownership group.

    The kind of money it costs to maintain a race horse? Well you would have even more jealousy and feelings of preferential treatment that what exists. That is something that's pretty hard to balance right now. You did say that the point system would decide which horses go in which races.
    If you don't think gamblers are the base of this industry unlike any other sport? Read the story about the NTRA in the BloodHorse.
    Gambling is THE thing that drives this industry. You're talking about getting track owners to turn loose of control and their money. Not going to happen.
    You need to learn a little more about cutthroat business and how it works. The way racing is structured with independent contractors in trainers, jockeys and owners? A team concept will never work. Also the possibility of collusion is FAR too great for any track officials, stewards etc to allow that.
    We love the fans. It's always neat to see them turn out. But if they don't gamble proportionate to numbers of bodies? It just doesn't help at all. Look at what dire straits Pimlico is in.
    Monmouth? The main thing that is being focused on isn't actually the attendance it's the quadrupling of the handle. Sorry to burst the fan buble but gambling is what drives the purses and purses drive the entries and quality of horses and races.